Launchpad Pro, Ableton Push & The Evolution of Grid Controllers


The arrival of Novation's Launchpad Pro marks an important evolution in the history of grid controllers, because it's the first one that can work standalone, without a computer! In other words - it's perfect for live performance. Let's have a look at other popular controllers to find out what makes this new release so exciting!

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Grid controllers are now an essential part in the studio and live setup of musicians, producers and DJs. The Novation Launchpad Pro has finally arrived, and got a hell of a lot of people excited about it, because it represents a true evolution of this type of controller.


Released in 2006, it was only produced in small quantities, but is still popular amongst some connoisseurs. The Monome has been used by artists such as Deadmau5 and Four Tet, and kick-started the wave of grid controllers we have today.

Launchpad S

The current popularity of grid controllers, though, is mostly due to the original, pioneering Novation Launchpad. It took the concept of this type of controller to a whole new level of usability and affordability, reaching a wider, new audience - which only grew when the Launchpad S was released, offering brighter LEDs, faster refresh rate and bundled with great software including Loopmasters and Bass Station. View more

Watch this great demo for a taster of what it does:

Launchpad Mini

The Launchpad Mini is a more compact and affordable version of the Launchpad, but still featuring the same 64-pad design. A great choice if you want to dabble with grid controllers but is still not too sure, or if you just want one that can fit easily in your bag! It's been updated to the new Mini MK2.

Launchpad MK2

Released in 2015, the Launchpad MK2is the latest version of the classic Launchpad, and comes to replace the S-model. With new RGB pads, affordable price and othergreat features, the MK2 is the best-value grid controller available at the moment. It comes with everything you need to get started making music straight out of the box: Ableton Live Lite, 1GB of royalty-free Loopmasters samples, Novation V Station and Bass Station VST and AU plug-ins. Find out more.

Here's a great example of what the Launchpad Mk2 can do:

Ableton Push

The Ableton Push is (so far) the big daddy of all grid controllers, solidly built and with plenty of controls, screen and ribbon slider. With a user-friendly layout perfect for producers, musicians and DJs, it offers hands on control of melody, harmonies, beats, sounds and song structure as well as triggering loops and samples in the Session view. It's the most powerful and versatile grid controller available today... but there's now a challenger to the throne:

Novation Launchpad Pro

The new Launchpad Pro really innovates the grid controller concept, and may prove to become as popular as Push, if not more. After all, it's much cheaper, less bulky and lighter.

But, what a lot of people want to know is: is Launchpad Pro better than Ableton Push? Which one should I choose?

As we always say, it always depends. Both are great, but they were designed with slightly different things in mind: Push focuses on track building in the studio, whereas Launchpad Pro focuses on music performance.

Current Push users who are happy with it are unlikely to get excited about Launchpad Pro, but that doesn't mean it's inferior at all. If you don't want everything that Push does, and also wants to use your grid controller with external hardware and as an actual live instrument, then Launchpad Pro is the way to go, with specs not even the more expensive Push has, such as actual MIDI ports (via jack adapters) so it's an actual MIDI grid controller, with included power adapter, which you can use without a laptop. But please note: you CAN'T load samples into it and use it this way...that's not what the "standalone" mode means. You may load your samples onto some hardware, or use Pro to trigger a drum machine, synth or any other non-computer application you can think of.

Doing it Live and Fader Glide
The Launchpad Pro was designed to be used on the fly: less paging around for sounds, less task switching, to easily create tracks and perform live. One of the most innovative features is Fader Glide - basically, you tap to set faders, using velocity to change values. Again, it's something that refocuses Pro as a live performance instrument. The harder you tap, the faster the value changes. So a light tap produces a smooth fade.

It's hackable!
Novation are open sourcing the firmware for Launchpad Pro, and doing a programmers reference guide for both Pro and Launchpad (MK2) which allows any software developer or someone with some programming knowledge to customize their Launchpad to do stuff it wasn’t designed for. The programmer's guide for Pro is already available here.

The future of the Launchpad Pro is bright. There's already a strong community of Launchpad enthusiasts, and the open source firmware means exciting things could - and will - happen!

Check this great demo of Launchpad Pro, and start getting excited!